Part of the Build Your Own Rituals series of reflections
Becoming a parent is a major threshold in one’s life – and right now there are many expectant parents who have had to spend some or all of their pregnancy in lockdown. This must be surreal and challenging, and a vastly different experience to the one which many first-time parents have been dreaming of.
But I was honoured to be asked by a mutual friend to help facilitate a blessing circle over Zoom for two very dear friends who are expecting their first bébé. In line with the couple’s beliefs, we wanted to create a space to bless and celebrate our beloved friends, which was also non-religious and didn’t reinforce gender norms.
So one Saturday, our group of lovely friends gathered around our webcams with a cuppa.
Showering blessings on the parents-to-be
After playing some excellent games, we invited the group to light a candle at the same time from our respective living rooms, to call us into presence and symbolise our union in spite of our distance. I had prepared a few words to begin, which you’d be welcome to use if you facilitate a similar event yourself:
We light candles together to honour the new journey which [names of parents-to-be] are embarking upon Though we are apart, we are close in one another's hearts And we share the intimacy of love Which knows no distance May this time be a blessing to all In particular, [names of parents-to-be], whom we wish to shower our love and friendship upon today
Next, I invited everyone to offer a brief reflection with the expectant parents. The reflections were beautifully varied, ranging from practical advice, to a poem, to a hand-written blessing.
The second thing we’d asked people to come prepared with was a song to go on a playlist for the couple, and an explanation of what inspired your choice of song. This playlist will be there for moments when the parents need cheering up, or simply to remind themselves that while parenthood can be a lonely journey, our support and love surrounds them always. Just like with the blessings we had all shared earlier, the song choices reflected not just the two people we were hoping to bless but also each of the individual relationships within that circle. In that way, sharing circles can symbolise and reinforce the beauty within our close relationships.
Lastly, when everyone had shared, we invited the parents-to-be if they had anything they would like to share. The mother-to-be shared her hope that we would be role models for her unborn child. By sharing this hope, the parents gave us, their support network, a sense of their priorities as parents. They wanted to know their children would have a wide network of supportive adults, who could offer them different perspectives on this human journey. They told us how we could best support them.
We closed the time with another simple symbol – which was blowing out our candles together.
This ceremony was a simple as it was meaningful. The gathering allowed us to offer and re-affirm our support to our friends. It allowed us to celebrate the couple that we love. It provided a milestone, a waymarker, for a very important journey in their lives. And it offered the expectant parents the opportunity to share their worries and hopes for the journey to come.
Thank you to my beautiful friends for the gift of being part of your blessing!
How to bless your expectant friends in a non-religious, non-gendered way
- Use simple tools such as candles or a piece of beautiful music to invite people to gather
These are simple, easy-to-obtain and super effective tools for helping create the right conditions for gathering and blessing. They help build atmosphere. The use of both candles and music in so many cultural, spiritual and religious traditions give them a universal symbolism.
- Be sensitive
Pregnancy, childbirth and fertility are deeply personal topics, and can be particularly challenging for anyone who is struggling to conceive, has experienced heartbreaking losses or simply never found the right time to have children. For others, they may not have children by choice and may find the ritual archaic or strange. Try to be sensitive to this.
- Don’t exclude dad
Traditionally, ‘baby showers’ have been very female-heavy affairs. But dads are parents too. Indeed, some families have two dads and no mums. This is a journey the expectant parents are taking together. Don’t they both (+ bump!) deserve to be showered with love?
- No pink and blue decorations
They’re just not necessary, and there are so many other cute decoration themes out there. Check Pinterest…
- Invite participants to share advice and support
There’s lots of ways to invite attendees to stand with the expectant parents and offer their advice and support. If a sharing circle isn’t your thing, another lovely idea is to create a ‘midnight jar’ – pop a few slips of paper and some coloured pens on tables and ask guests to write a few messages to fold up and put in the jar. The couple then take this homewith them, and select a message from the jar, one at a time, to provide laughs, comfort and support during tough times. Perfect for those lonely 3am feeds.
I’ve made a small donation to Tommy’s, in honour of the 1 in 4 parents who experience the heartbreak of baby loss.